Coles customer humiliated by degrading demand at the checkout

A cancer survivor was left mortified after he was forced to show his hernia to a ‘loud’ Coles worker who accused him of shoplifting and hiding groceries under his shirt.

Tony Jones, 39, was left humiliated after he was called out by the staff at Kallangur Coles, north of Brisbane, on Saturday morning.

Mr Jones, who has a hernia the size of a rockmelon on his right side, had gone to pay when he said the middle-aged worker yelled: ‘What about what’s under your shirt?’ 

He explained his large hernia was the result of a stoma bag following bowel cancer surgery. 

‘[The Coles employee] walks up to me, in a very accusatory tone like she was happy that she had caught me, loud enough that anyone at self checkout knew,’ Mr Jones said.

‘I was shocked but wanted out of there so just lifted my shirt to show my stoma bag and the hernia.

‘I suppose I could have argued but I already hate my body, I hate the stoma and the hernia causes a lot of pain and I detest how I look so just wanted out.’

Tony Jones has a large hernia (pictured) on his stomach and was accused by a Coles employee of shoplifting on Saturday

Mr Jones said the employee immediately apologised before claiming the store had experienced several thefts in the past.

‘It was quick but it’s really left me shocked that they can take such an accusatory tone and sound so proud of themselves for it, like they where waiting to try and catch a thief,’ he told

Mr Jones said the whole confrontation left him feeling ‘violated’ and frustrated.

‘Having my hernia and my stoma bag on display for everyone who was looking was embarrassing and I feel very weird now,’ he said.

‘It feels really wrong.’

The manager of the Coles branch has since apologised to Mr Jones and offered him a $100 gift voucher.

‘I won’t be going back to that store again ever but $100 is two weeks of my food budget so it makes a big difference at least,’ he said. 

Mr Jones theorised the staff could be on higher alert for theft as the Kallangur store hasn’t installed the company’s new anti-theft gates yet.

The gates, which have been adopted by Coles and Woolworths, automatically open for paying customers and prevent thieves from leaving.

Mr Jones’ post quickly went viral with hundreds of commenters outraged by the worker’s accusatory behaviour.

‘Hopefully you embarrassed her enough that she’ll think twice about doing that to somebody else,’ one said.

‘Was the apology as loud as the accusation?,’ another asked.

Mr Jones claims the employee yelled, 'what about what's under your shirt?' as he tried to pay at the self-checkout

Mr Jones claims the employee yelled, ‘what about what’s under your shirt?’ as he tried to pay at the self-checkout

However, Mr Jones is insistent the woman shouldn’t be fired over the ‘mistake’. 

‘I don’t think the employee should be fired, yes it upset and shocked me but I don’t think making one mistake should get someone fired,’ he said.

‘Repeated mistakes, yes, but not if it’s a one-off, it’s learnable.’

A Coles spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia the manager had apologised profusely to Mr Jones for the incident.

‘Our aim is to deliver helpful and courteous service for our customers every day and ensure they are all treated with respect when shopping in our stores,’ they said.

‘We are disappointed to hear about this customer’s experience and yesterday we spoke directly to our customer and apologised for this incident. 

‘Coles is committed to creating an inclusive environment for our customers and team members and apologise again that this didn’t occur on this occasion.’

Around 46,000 Australians live with stomas. 

Mr Jones shared his story online with one social media user, who claimed to work for a ‘stoma organisation’, urging the upset shopper to make sure Coles’ head office took his complaint seriously. 

‘There are so many places that can make having a bag an issue purely because they don’t understand,’ they said. 

‘I’m sure I’m not telling you anything new there though, and that you’re familiar with the nightmare that can be airport security. 

‘We also had to go to bat for a kid who got banned from the local swimming pool recently. 

‘I feel for you and I wish I had something more helpful to add.’

Mr Jones said he has been using a stoma bag (above) since undergoing surgery for bowel cancer

Mr Jones said he has been using a stoma bag (above) since undergoing surgery for bowel cancer

Mr Jones thanked the person for their advice but believes he’ll ‘never accept’ living with a stoma bag.

‘It’s been several years now and I still hate the thing, probably doesn’t help that I had a permanent catheter put in in December because the bowel removal surgery damaged the nerves around my bladder,’ he said.

‘I’ve been having some real lows of late as my health doesn’t seem to be getting better and this [incident was] a setback mentally.’